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Abraham Lincoln's 
Contemporaries 



George H. Thomas 



Excerpts from newspapers and other 

sources 



From the files of the 
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection 



7/.ioof «?<r, o3fffY 



THE 



ATLANTIC 

MONTHLY 



AUGUST 




1914 




In the Pasha's Garden H. G. DWIGHT 145 

A Stamboul Night's Entertainment. 

Motherhood and the State ALBERT JAY NOCK 157 

The Pleasures of an Absentee Landlord . SAMUEL McCHORD crothers 164 

Victorian Hypocrisy ANNIE WINSOR ALLEN 174 

As I Drank Tea To-day. A Poem . . . FANNIE STEARNS DAVIS gifford 189 

Our Nearest, and Our Farthest, Neighbors . . . MARGARET sherwood 191 

Something Big, Like Red Bird. A Story MARGARET PRESGOTT MONTAGUE 199 

Father Fred. A Portrait from Life zephine Humphrey 207 

An Hour in Ghartres RANDOLPH s. BOURNE 214 

Union Portraits , 

II. George H. Thomas GAMALIEL BRADFORD 218 

A Tulip Garden. A Poem amy LOWELL 230 

Adventures in American Diplomacy. 

III. The Treaty of Ghent FREDERICK TREVOR HILL 231 

The Afternoon Ride of Paul Revere Columbus Dobbs. A Story. 

VIRGINIA BAKER 242 

The Game SIMEON STRUNSKY 248 

The Agriculture of the Garden of Eden J. russell smith 256 

Life and Death. A Poem anonymous 263 

The Boy. A Story ANNA fuller 265 

On Noses LUCY ELLIOT KEELER 274 

The Modernist. An Essay in Verse o. w. firkins 278 

The Contributors' Club 283 

The Fearsome Garter-Snake. — The Vicarious Career. — Fault Found with Forty. 

THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY COMPANY 

4 PARK STREET, BOSTON 

Published monthly and entered at the Post Office in Boston as second-class matter 
Copyright, tqij, by The Atlantic Monthly Company 
35 cents a copy $4.00 a year 





UNION PORTRAITS 



II. GEORGE H. THOMAS 



BY GAMALIEL BRADFORD 



Thomas ranks among the highest as 
a general and is most winning as a man. 
But the fact that, although a Virgin- 
ian, he remained true to the Union and 
fought against his state and family and 
friends gives perhaps the chief interest 
to the study of his character and mode 
of thought. 

It will be advantageous to present 
first in the abstract all the arguments 
that appear to justify a military man 
in such a position. 

First, there is the oath of allegiance. 
In all countries and under all govern- 
ments it has always been held that the 
officer is bound to follow his flag, that 
he has accepted training and support 
under the constituted authorities, and 
that he is pledged to render obedience 
and to devote all his efforts and his life 
to carrying out the orders that come to 
him from his lawful superior. A man's 
conscience is, of course, higher than his 
military duty, but the instances where 
the two should be separated are very 
rare indeed. 

In the case of our Civil War there was 
a great deal more to the question than 
mere mechanical loyalty. For nearly 
a hundred years the Union had grown 
and flourished, in spite of sharp politi- 
cal disputes. The possibilities of future 
expansion and prosperity were enor- 
mous. It needed but little prophetic 
vision to look forward to wealth and 
218 



happiness for coming generations such 
as the world had hardly ever seen be- 
fore. But a man who knew what war 
was, and what armies were, and what 
military government was, did not need 
to be told that such a future would be 
gravely imperiled, if the Union were 
shattered into fragments. To a man 
with that knowledge, the attempt to 
break up the Union was stupid, fatal, 
intolerable folly. This was what Rob- 
ert E. Lee meant when he said: T 
can anticipate no greater calamity for 
the country than a dissolution of the 
Union.' And again, 'Secession is no- 
thing but revolution.' And yet again, 
'It is idle to talk of secession. Anar- 
chy would have been established and 
not a government by Washington, 
Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and the 
other patriots of the Revolution.' 

It was not only the future of the 
United States that was involved, but 
the future of Democracy. Those who 
urged secession claimed to be defending 
popular government against a usurp- 
ing executive. In reality nothing could 
show more clearly the danger of cen- 
tralization to a republic than the his- 
tory of the Confederacy. And the na- 
tion which was founded on state rights 
ended in a tragic — or comic ■ — exhi- 
bition of building a strong central au- 
thority on state wrongs. Everyone who 
longed passionately for the success of 
free institutions must have appreci- 
ated that there could be no greater 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



219 



danger to such institutions than the es- 
tablishment of two or a dozen confed- 
eracies watching perpetually in armed 
eagerness to cut each other's throats. 
A striking illustration of how forcibly 
this was felt by outsiders appears in a 
speech made by Disraeli in 1864, less 
often quoted than are some other Eng- 
lish utterances of that time: 'After the 
conclusion of the war we will see a dif- 
erent America from that which was 
known to our fathers and from that 
even of which this generation has had 
so much experience. It will, I believe, 
be an America of diplomacy, it will 
be an America of rival states and of 
manoeuvring Cabinets, of frequent tur- 
bulence and frequent wars.' You per- 
ceive from what the good Lord, work- 
ing through Thomas and others like 
him, delivered us. 

And if this was the patriotic view 
of a broad-minded American, it might 
have been equally the view of a loyal 
Virginian. What was fatal to the whole 
could not well be advantageous to the 
parts. If the preservation of the Union 
meant peace, freedom, and popular 
government for Maine, Illinois, and 
California, it meant the same thing 
for Virginia, and the destruction of the 
Union meant an abyss of possible dis- 
aster for Virginia also. 

Writing formerly in the Atlantic, I 
had occasion to say that in the appa- 
rently most remote contingency of a 
secession of Massachusetts or of New 
England, I should follow my state even 
if the cause of such secession did not 
meet with my approval. I now repeat 
the statement without hesitating in the 
slightest. The love of home, the might 
of ancestral tradition, New England 
habits of thought and habits of affec- 
tion are too deeply rooted in every 
fibre of my heart for me to take any 
risk of being exiled from them perpetu- 
ally. But it may easily be maintained 
that one who followed a different course 



would show a broader, a more far-see- 
ing, a more self-sacrificing patriotism, 
even as a New Englander. 

Reasoning from analogy is always 
defective and often misleading, but 
when Southerners say, with Colonel 
McCabe, that Thomas turned his back 
on Virginia in the hour of her sorest 
need, I am tempted to put the matter 
thus. If a man sees his mother about 
to commit suicide in a fit of temporary 
insanity, which is more truly filial, to 
stand reverently by and watch her do 
it, or to do his best to restrain her, 
even with a certain amount of brutal 
violence? 

So much for the line of argument 
that Thomas might have used . How far 
did he actually use it? Nobody knows. 
His numerous admirers are ready and 
eager to tell us what they thought, 
and what they think he ought to have 
thought and must have thought. But 
the actual reliable evidence as to his 
own mental processes is meagre in the 
extreme. 

One thing we can say at starting, as 
positively as we can speak of any hu- 
man motive. It is alleged that Thomas 
was governed by considerations of per- 
sonal advantage and promotion. The 
same thing has been alleged in regard 
to Lee, and with just as much truth in 
one case as in the other. The charac- 
ters of both men absolutely preclude 
the assignment, even the consideration, 
of anything so contemptible. 

Further, Thomas is said to have been 
influenced by his wife, who was a New 
York woman. Probably he was, though 
Mrs. Thomas makes the almost incom- 
prehensible assertion that 'never a 
word passed between General Thomas 
and myself, or any one of the family, 
upon the subject of his remaining loyal 
to the United States Government.' I 
say 'almost incomprehensible,' because 
the general spent the fierce winter of 
1860-1861, when everybody was talk- 



220 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



ing politics, with his wife in New York. 
And I repeat, probably he was influ- 
enced. Who is not, by his surroundings 
and by those he loves? Does any one 
believe that Lee was not influenced by 
Mrs. Lee and by his friends and fam- 
ily? But that either of these men could 
be persuaded to do anything he thought 
wrong, by his wife or by any one else, 
is a mere dream of prejudice and party 
passion. 

What actual evidence we have, how- 
ever, as to Thomas's attitude in that 
trying time goes practically all one way 
and, I think, shows beyond question 
that he had his hour of doubt and diffi- 
culty. The story, widely current at 
the South, that Thomas wrote to the 
Confederate authorities to know what 
rank would be given him if he joined 
them, may be rejected at once, on 
Thomas's own vehement statement, 
and was merely a misinterpretation of 
documents to be considered shortly. 
The explicit testimony of Fitzhugh 
Lee that Thomas told him in New York 
early in 1861 that he intended to resign 
cannot, of course, be for one moment 
disputed as to intentional veracity. 
It is possible, however, that Lee, in 
his own enthusiasm, may have taken 
Thomas more positively than was 
meant. Evidence less likely to be ques- 
tioned by Northerners is furnished by 
Keyes, who knew Thomas well before 
the war and regarded him with the 
greatest esteem and affection. Keyes 
attributes the general's final decision to 
his wife, and adds, 'Had he followed 
his own inclination, he would have 
joined the Confederates and fought 
against the North with the same abil- 
ity and valor that he displayed in our 
cause.' 

Further, there are two letters of 
Thomas's which have a very interest- 
ing connection with the point we are 
discussing. On January 18, 1861, he 
wrote to the Superintendent of the Vir- 



ginia Military Institute, the school in 
which Jackson was an instructor and 
which bore something like the same 
relation to the state that West Point 
bears to the nation, as follows: 'In 
looking over the files of the National 
Intelligencer this morning, I met with 
your advertisement for a commandant 
of cadets and instructor of tactics at 
the institute. If not already filled, I 
will be under obligations if you will 
inform me what salary and allowances 
pertain to the situation, as from pre- 
sent appearances I feel it will soon be 
necessary for me to be looking up some 
means of support.' 

It is urged by Thomas's biographers 
that this letter has no political signifi- 
cance whatever, that the general was 
at that time doubtful about the effects 
of a severe injury recently received 
which he thought might disable him 
for further active service. 

This explanation may be correct, but 
it must be admitted that the coinci- 
dence is singular and unfortunate. It 
becomes much more so when we weigh 
the language of another letter written 
on March 12, 1861. Governor Letcher, 
of Virginia, had caused the position 
of chief of ordnance of the state to be 
offered to Thomas, if he wished to 
resign from the United States service. 
Thomas replies : ' I have the honor to 
state, after expressing my most sincere 
thanks for your very kind offer, that it 
is not my wish to leave the service of 
the United States as long as it is honor- 
able for me to remain in it; and there- 
fore as long as my native State, Vir- 
ginia, remains in the Union, it is my 
purpose to remain in the Army unless 
required to perform duties alike repul- 
sive to honor and humanity.' 

Here we have almost the identical 
words of Lee as to the Union, written 
at about the same time. 'I am willing 
to sacrifice everything but honor for 
its preservation.' I do not see how any 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



221 



unprejudiced person can doubt that up 
to the middle of March, at any rate, 
Thomas was divided between his loyal- 
ty to the Union and his loyalty to Vir- 
ginia. The only shred of actual evidence 
on the other side is Colonel Hough's 
report of a conversation in which his 
chief declared that ' his duty was clear 
from the beginning.' But this conver- 
sation occurred long after the struggle 
was over, when time and bitter memo- 
ries had accentuated everything, and 
by the phrase 'from the beginning,' 
the general may well have meant only 
the actual beginning of the war. To 
me the comment of Grant, who must 
have spoken from reliable hearsay, if 
not from personal knowledge, seems a 
perfectly satisfactory statement of the 
case. 'When the war was coming, 
Thomas felt like a Virginian, and talked 
like one, and had all the sentiments 
then so prevalent about the rights of 
slavery and sovereign states and so on. 
But the more Thomas thought it over, 
the more he saw the crime of treason 
behind it all.' 

And why should any one blame him 
for hesitation in the matter? If he was 
a man, with a man's heart, and not 
a mere military machine, was he not 
bound to hesitate? The point would 
not be worth the space I have given 
it, if it were not for the folly of North- 
ern apologists on the one hand, who 
insist that their hero must always have 
thought as they did, and for the cruelty 
of Southern partisans on the other, who 
insinuate ignoble motives where there 
is no possible foundation for them. 
Whatever may have been Thomas's 
doubts when the dispute was in a theo- 
retical stage, the guns at Sumter settled 
the question for him. When he heard 
that echo, he wrote to his wife words 
which are equally significant of his de- 
cision and of his previous indecision: 
'Whichever way he turned the matter 
over in his mind, his oath of allegiance 



to his Government always came up- 
permost.' 

A few days later than this, in the 
very interesting letter of Fitz-John 
Porter printed in the Official Records 
(volume 107, page 351), we see Thomas 
assisting to hold others to their duty; 
and from that time on there is no in- 
dication of the faintest wavering or re- 
gret, any more than there is with Lee 
who had chosen the other side after 
a bitter struggle of his own. Indeed, 
with the progress of the war Thomas's 
language in regard to rebels and re- 
bellion becomes more and more ener- 
getic, as appears in one very curious 
passage regarding deserters, written in 
April, 1864. 'I believe many of them 
return to the enemy after recruiting 
their health and strength, because they 
are rebels by nature, others because 
of family influence, and others like the 
drunkard to his bottle, because they 
have not sufficient moral courage to 
resist the natural depravity of their 
hearts.' In the last clause I think we 
see what Thomas would have felt to be 
the just analysis of his own psycho- 
logical experience. He had found the 
moral courage to withstand a terrible 
trial. 

As shown by Grant's remark above 
quoted, Thomas's attitude before the 
war in regard to slavery was probably 
that of the average moderate South- 
erner. He was never an extensive slave- 
holder. While in Texas he purchased 
a slave woman for actual needs of ser- 
vice, and rather than sell her again 
into the hands of strangers, he sent her 
home to Virginia at very considerable 
expense and inconvenience. 



ii 

The difficulty we have met with in 
getting at Thomas's state of mind dur- 
ing the critical months of 1861 forms 
an excellent introduction to the study 



222 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



of his character. There is the same dif- 
ficulty in getting at his state of mind 
at any other time. He was very insist- 
ent that none of his private letters 
should be published after his death, 
and very few have been. His official 
correspondence is extensive; but it is 
singularly formal in character and tells 
us almost nothing about the man's 
soul, except that such reserve is in it- 
self significant, and that even trifling 
hints of self-revelation become valuable 
in such a scarcity. Thus a letter that 
begins 'Dear Sherman,' is almost start- 
ling in its contrast to the usual staid 
formulae of subordinate respect. 

Not only in letters but in every- 
thing was Thomas reserved, self-con- 
tained, self-controlled. 'A boy of few 
words, but of an excellent spirit,' was 
about all the information that his bio- 
grapher could gather as to his child- 
hood. At West Point, where he was 
graduated in 1840, in the Indian cam- 
paigns, during the Mexican War, in 
which he distinguished himself greatly, 
and through the interval till the Civil 
War came, there is a similar record: 
quiet, faithful service, and no more said 
than was necessary; a strong, calm, pa- 
tient, dignified soldier, ready alike for 
good and evil fortune. Nor did he ap- 
pear differently throughout the great 
conflict, from his first victory at Mill 
Springs in January, 1862, through Shi- 
loh and Perryville and Murfreesboro 
and Chickamauga and Chattanooga 
and Atlanta, to his last victory at Nash- 
ville, one of the most skillful and deci- 
sive battles of the war. Everywhere it 
was a question of deeds, not of words, 
of accomplishing the task set and mak- 
ing as little fuss about it as possi- 
ble. Everywhere there was shrinking 
from cheap publicity and the adver- 
tising through self or others which did 
more for some reputations than great 
fighting. When asked to become a can- 
didate for the presidency after the war, 



Thomas declined, giving as one reason, 
'I can never consent, voluntarily, to 
place myself in a position where scur- 
rilous newspaper men and political 
demagogues can make free with my per- 
sonal character and reputation, with 
impunity.' 

The advantages of this splendid poise 
and self-contained power in Thomas's 
character will bear analysis in many 
ways. Let us consider the negative ad- 
vantages first. For one thing, Thomas 
was free from over-confidence. He did 
not press eagerly into undertakings be- 
yond his strength, and consequently he 
and his army were saved the humil- 
iation and demoralization that come 
from drawing back. 

Moreover, Thomas was free from the 
brag and bluster which disfigure the 
glory of so many really able soldiers. 
He may have felt in his heart that he 
could do great things, but he did not 
proclaim it. Indeed, on this point he 
erred in the direction of excessive mod- 
esty. 'So modest was he that his face 
would color with blushes when his 
troops cheered him,' says one who 
knew him well. To be sure, his enthusi- 
astic biographer observes, with fine dis- 
crimination, that when a modest man 
does break out, he does so thoroughly. 
A curious instance of this is a speech 
Thomas was forced to make after the 
war, in which, announcing that he was 
a modest man, he went on to explain 
his merits in refusing to take command 
when it was offered him to the detri- 
ment of his superior. A less modest 
man, with his wits more about him, 
would perhaps have left the remark 
to some one else. 

On the other hand, a much more 
important illustration of the underly- 
ing truth and nobility of the general's 
nature appears in another speech in 
which he explained the battle of Nash- 
ville, and his chief concern seemed to 
be to point out his great mistake in 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



223 



not making use of the cavalry to de- 
stroy Hood completely. You will go 
some distance before you find ano- 
ther commander busy enlarging on the 
things he ought to have done and did 
not do. 

Again, Thomas's reserve saved him 
from the fault, too general on both 
sides during the war, of speaking harsh- 
ly in criticism of his superiors or his 
subordinates, of allowing that jealousy 
of others' success, which is perhaps in- 
separable from human weakness, to 
become manifest in outward speech 
and action. It is rare indeed that he 
expresses himself with such frankness 
as about Schurz: 'I do not think he is 
worth much from what I have seen of 
him, and should not regret having him 
go'; or in regard to an expedition of 
Stoneman: 'The Stoneman raid turns 
out to be a humbug. ... It seems that 
when twenty-five of the enemy are 
seen anywhere they are considered in 
force.' 

On the other hand how admirable 
was the loyalty, based of course on 
sound judgment, which made him un- 
willing to be put in place of Buell on 
the eve of battle, and in the highest 
degree reluctant to succeed Rosecrans. 
When the latter change was first pro- 
posed, Dana writes that Thomas re- 
fuses absolutely; 'he could not consent 
to become the successor of Rosecrans, 
because he would not do anything to 
give countenance to the suspicion that 
he had intrigued against his comman- 
der. Besides he has as perfect con- 
fidence in the capacity and fidelity of 
General Rosecrans as he had in those 
of General Buell.' 

Even when it would have been 
easy and natural to say something un- 
pleasant, Thomas refrains, as in his 
comments on the victory at Chatta- 
nooga, won, as is usually supposed, 
quite contrary to Grant's plans. 'It 
will be perceived from the above report 



that the original plan of operations was 
somewhat modified to meet and take 
the best advantage of emergencies 
which necessitated material modifica- 
tions of that plan. It is believed, how- 
ever, that the original plan, had it 
been carried out, could not possibly 
have led to more successful results.' 

If, as is sometimes asserted, Thomas 
was jealous of Grant, the moderation 
of the passage just cited is all the more 
noticeable. That there was a certain 
amount of the very human jealousy I 
have suggested above, is possible. How 
difficult it is to discriminate motives in 
such a case is shown by comparing Gen- 
eral Wilson's description of Grant's first 
arrival at Chattanooga, wet, weary, and 
wounded, and Thomas's reception of 
him, with Horace Porter's account of 
the same scene. According to General 
Wilson, Thomas was completely out of 
sorts and treated Grant with inexcus- 
able rudeness, arising, Wilson thinks, 
from smouldering jealousy. Porter, on 
the other hand, feels that the unde- 
niable remissness on Thomas's part 
arose rather from preoccupation with 
other cares, and he analyzes excellent- 
ly the probable facts as to the relation 
between the two great leaders. 'There 
is very little doubt that if any other 
two general officers in the service had 
been placed in the same trying circum- 
stances there would have been an open 
rupture.' 

in 

So far, then, as to the negative ad- 
vantages of Thomas's reserve and self- 
control. But the positive advantages 
were much greater. To begin with, he 
was by nature businesslike, a man of 
system. The story that his chief com- 
plaint of the enemy at Chickamauga, 
when everything was collapsing about 
him, was that 'the damned scoundrels 
were fighting without any system,' may 
be apocryphal, though I am inclined 






224 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



to believe it. But all the evidence shows 
that he loved to have things work by 
rule, and arranged even little matters 
with patient care. He was always neat 
as to his dress and person. He liked 
a completeness even approaching dis- 
play about his camp service and equip- 
age, and had formal Negro attendants 
and silver tableware. All Sherman's 
efforts to reduce this equipment for the 
sake of example during the Atlanta 
campaign were quite unavailing, yet 
it does not seem to have resulted from 
any instinct of aristocratic superiority, 
but simply from an established habit. 
In the same way, Thomas insisted upon 
an elaborate administrative apparatus, 
and the story goes that Sherman, after 
unduly stripping himself, was very glad 
to make use of his subordinate's facil- 
ities in this direction. 

It was the same with discipline. 
Thomas was always approachable, al- 
ways kindly, but he wanted no time 
spent without a purpose, and even in 
accomplishing a purpose wanted meth- 
ods to be brief and direct. This thor- 
oughly businesslike element of his char- 
acter is shown by nothing better than 
by the change which is said to have 
taken place in the army when Thomas 
succeeded Rosecrans. Rosecrans was 
brilliant but erratic, full of clever 
schemes, but without settled grasp on 
either men or movements. Under his 
control, or lack of control, adminis- 
tration had become utterly haphazard 
and unsystematic. With Thomas's ap- 
pointment everything was altered. As 
Dana wrote, in his vivid fashion, 'order 
prevails instead of chaos.' 

It was Thomas's habit, before start- 
ing on any important movement, to see 
that all pending matters of business 
were attended to, all papers properly 
arranged, his own signature affixed to 
every document that required it. Even 
matters of comparatively slight impor- 
tance were not overlooked. Thus, on 



the morning of December 15, 1864, 
when he was riding through Nashville 
to begin the battle which he knew was 
the great and long-delayed crisis of his 
life, he stopped his whole staff in the 
street to give direction that fourteen 
bushels of coal should be sent to Mr. 
Harris, his neighbor. 'I was out of 
coal and borrowed this number of 
bushels from him the other day.' Has 
not such an anecdote the real ring of 
Plutarch? is it not as fine as Socrates's 
last payment of the cock to iEscula- 
pius? 

This thoroughness of method shows 
in all Thomas's military activity. ' The 
fate of a battle may depend on a 
buckle,' he once said to an officer whose 
harness broke. He wanted to know 
where he was going, what he was go- 
ing with, what material he had with 
him and against him. He provided for 
all possible contingencies of accident. 
' There is always a remedy for any fail- 
ure of a part of Thomas's plans, or for 
the delinquencies of subordinates.' He 
left nothing to others that he could do 
himself. 'On a march or a campaign, 
he saw every part of his army every 
day. ... If, when he was at the rear, 
the sounds indicated contact with the 
enemy, he passed on to the very front, 
where he often dismounted and walk- 
ed to the outer skirmish line to recon- 
noitre.' 

The extreme of this methodical care 
is displayed in his curious remark to 
Dana: 'I should have long since liked 
to have an independent command, but 
what I should have desired would have 
been the command of an army that I 
could myself have organized, distrib- 
uted, disciplined, and combined.' It 
is a striking piece of irony that when 
Sherman left him in chief command to 
confront Hood, he should have had the 
exact opposite of this, an unorganized, 
incoherent, scattered, chaotic army, 
which he had to make before he used 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



225 



it. He did make it, shape it, put it to- 
gether, before he would stir one step. 
Then he struck the most finished, tell- 
ing, perfect blow that was struck on 
either side during the war. 

And the natural result of this splen- 
did thoroughness was a universal re- 
liability. Everybody, from the com- 
mander-in-chief to the camp-followers, 
trusted Thomas. When he telegraphed 
to Grant from Chattanooga, 'We will 
hold the town till we starve,' everybody 
knew there was no bluster about it, 
everybody knew the town would be 
held. In this connection perhaps the 
grandeur and force of his character 
made themselves more felt at Chicka- 
mauga than even at Nashville; and the 
soldiers' pet name, ' Rock of Chicka- 
mauga,' implies solidity and stability 
more than any other qualities. When 
everything is marching steadily to vic- 
tory according to a preconceived plan, 
you may know the power that is be- 
hind, but you do not feel it directly 
and vividly. But when things go wrong, 
when strong men are breaking blindly, 
when disaster seems sweeping on be- 
yond check or stay, then to lean back 
against one magnificent will, of itself 
sufficient to change fate, that indeed 
gives you a sense of what human per- 
sonality can be. 

It is in moments like these that a 
physique such as Thomas's, with all it 
expresses of the soul, is most impos- 
ing. He was tall, broad, solidly built, 
with firm, square shoulders and a full- 
bearded face as firm and square as the 
shoulders were. Some say that the 
expression was stern, some say kind 
and gentle. Probably it co'uld be either 
according to circumstances; and I de- 
light in Garfield's comment on the eyes: 
'cold gray to his enemies, but warm 
blue to his friends.' Equally enthusi- 
astic is Howard's denial of the charge 
of coldness and severity. ' To me Gen- 
eral Thomas's features never seemed 
VOL. 114 -NO.? 



cold. His smile of welcome was pleas- 
ant and most cordial. His words and 
acts drew toward him my whole heart, 
particularly when I went into battle 
under him.' And this is the impression 
that I get most of Thomas as a bat- 
tle-leader, one of immense comfort. 
Others may have been more showy, 
even more inspiring. To fight under 
Thomas was like having a wall at your 
back or a great battery to cover you. 



IV 

Naturally, characteristics so strongly 
marked as the reserve, and poise, and 
self-control we have been analyzing in 
Thomas carry some defects with them. 
Strongly marked characteristics al- 
ways do. His love of system and the 
regular way of doing things did some- 
times degenerate into a defect. This 
shows in little foibles of no moment 
except for what they indicate. Thus 
Thomas was walking one day with 
Sherman and they came across a 
soldier parching corn from the fields. 
Thomas commended him, but cau- 
tioned him not to waste any. As they 
passed on, Sherman heard the fellow 
mutter, ' There he goes, there goes the 
old man, economizing as usual.' And 
Sherman's characteristic comment is, 
' economizing with corn which cost only 
the labor of gathering and roasting.' 

Again, it is said that Thomas hated 
new clothes, and when his promotions 
began to come faster than he could 
wear out his uniforms, he was always 
one uniform behind. Of similar trivi- 
ality yet significance is the story that 
when he was put into a good bed in 
a Louisville hotel, he could not sleep, 
but sent for his camp cot in the middle 
of the night. 

More important in this line is his 
criticism of the Sanitary and Christian 
commissions. With all their useful- 
ness, they were something of a nuisance 



I : 



226 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



from the point of view of system, and 
Thomas complains, 'They have caused 
much trouble and could be easily dis- 
pensed with for the good of the service, 
as their duties are legitimately those of, 
and should be performed by, the medi- 
cal department.' 

Most illuminating of all for Tho- 
mas's mental constitution is his atti- 
tude toward rank, promotion, and offi- 
cial dignity. Advancement was slow in 
coming to him at first, partly perhaps 
because of his Southern antecedents, 
partly also because of his quiet dis- 
charge of duty without talk or polit- 
ical effort. When others were placed 
over him, he made no protest of am- 
bition or desert, and was disposed to 
bear slights which merely touched his 
personal worth with dignified indiffer- 
ence. But the minute he felt that the 
regular order of procedure was inter- 
fered with, he was ready to object. 
Thus, when he is put under Mitchell, 
in 1861, he writes, 'Justice to myself 
requires that I ask to be relieved from 
duty with these troops, since the Secre- 
tary has thought it necessary to super- 
sede me in command, without, as I 
conceive, any just cause for so doing.' 

At a later date he is subordinated to 
Rosecrans and protests in the same 
spirit. 'Although I do not claim for 
myself any superior ability, yet feel- 
ing conscious that no reason exists for 
over-slaughing me by placing me under 
my junior, I feel deeply mortified and 
aggrieved at the action taken in the 
matter.' 

This, I think, shows clearly the in- 
stinct of system, tending to harden 
into a red-tape habit. We can all im- 
agine how differently Sherman would 
have written under similar circum- 
stances, perhaps as follows : I don't care 
a jot whether the man is my senior or 
my junior. The one question is, can he 
do the work better than I? To speak 
frankly, I don't think he can. 



Another curious case is Thomas's 
insistence on being transferred to the 
Pacific Department after the war. His 
biographer admits that he did not wish 
to go there, but was merely unwilling 
to see his rank degraded by having 
Schofield given the higher appoint- 
ment. 

Thomas's methodical temper is 
sometimes asserted to have given rise 
to a defect even more serious, that of 
excessive deliberateness, not to say 
slowness, in action. This much debated 
question is too purely military for a 
civilian to settle, but some discussion 
of it is necessary. 

Perhaps the most severe criticism of 
Thomas comes from his own subordi- 
nate, Schofield, in connection with the 
Nashville campaign. Summed up very 
briefly and stripped of politeness^ Scho- 
field 's charges are that Thomas should 
have concentrated and fought Hood 
earlier; that Schofield himself really 
won Nashville at Franklin; that when 
Nashville was fought it was Schofield's 
advice that made the victory complete; 
that on the second day of the battle 
Thomas's leadership was quite inade- 
quate; and that Thomas's reports 
cannot have been written by himself, 
because he would have been incapable 
of omitting to give credit for his sub- 
ordinate's achievements, — a civil way 
of insinuating that Thomas suppressed 
the truth. All this would be indeed 
overwhelming, if exact. 

Milder critics insist that Thomas 
was slow at Nashville, notably Grant, 
both at the time and afterwards, re- 
peating to Young the old story of the 
general's nickname of ' Slow-Trot Tho- 
mas,' acquired at West Point. But 
Grant rarely let Thomas's name be 
mentioned without some innuendo. 
Neither did Sherman, who, though 
often praising his subordinate's stead- 
iness, complains of the difficulty of 
keeping him moving. 'A fresh furrow 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



227 



in a ploughed field will stop the whole 
column and all begin to intrench.' 

Cox, who knew Thomas well and 
admired him greatly and who has none 
of Schofield's obvious personal irrita- 
tion, is inclined to agree with the lat- 
ter that the general might have met and 
defeated Hood more promptly. And 
Colonel T. L. Livermore, after his mi- 
nute and careful analysis of Thomas's 
whole career, inclines to the belief that 
in almost every one of his battles he 
might have accomplished more than he 
did, this being particularly the case in 
regard toChickamauga. Colonel Liver- 
more, however, admits that Thomas's 
greatness deserves all admiration, and 
that no one would question it if it were 
not for the fact that his biographers 
try to exalt him by depreciating every- 
body else. This they certainly do, with 
more ardor than discernment. 

On the point of generalship I think 
we may conclude that, while perhaps 
Thomas had not the headlong aggres- 
siveness of Sherman and Sheridan, of 
Jackson and Stuart, he had gifts so 
great, so successful, and so fruitful, — 
gifts not only of steadiness and far- 
reaching preparation, but also of broad 
conception and strategic intelligence, 
— that to find fault with him is an un- 
gracious and a thankless task. 



So far we have considered Thomas 
as a man of reserved power, of poise 
and self-control, and there is a general 
impression that he was cold and im- 
passible, of a statuesque temperament, 
little subject to human passion and 
infirmity. Careful study shows that 
this is less true than might be suppos- 
ed. The human passions were there, 
however watchfully governed. 

Take ambition. Few men seem to 
have been freer from its subtle influ- 
ence. Thomas declined advancement 



when it seemed to him unjust to others, 
declined to be put in Buell's place, 
declined to be put in Rosecrans's, de- 
clined to let Johnson set him up as 
lieutenant-general to interfere with 
Grant. He declined a nomination for 
the presidency because he felt himself 
not fitted for it. Nor did the more solid 
fruits of ambition tempt him. After 
the war he was offered a handsome 
house, but declined it. A large sum of 
money was raised for him. He declined 
it, though he was poor, and desired it 
to be expended for the relief of dis- 
abled soldiers. 

Yet in one of the few letters that have 
come to us from his early days, there is 
a real human cry. 'This will be the only 
opportunity I shall have of distinguish- 
ing myself, and not to be able to avail 
myself of it is too bad.' And there is 
something equally human about a dis- 
claimer of ambition in later days. 'I 
have exhibited at least sufficient energy 
to show that if I had been intrusted 
with the command at that time I might 
have conducted it successfully. ... I 
went to my duty without a murmur, 
as I am neither ambitious nor have 
any political aspirations.' Now, don't 
you think perhaps he was a little am- 
bitious, after all? 

Again, take temper. Thomas had 
plenty of it under his outward calm. 
His vexatious biographers declare that, 
although no church member, he was 
devoutly religious, and used and al- 
lowed no profanity. I have no ques- 
tion as to the religion, but I have 
quoted some profanity above which 
sounds genuine — and good — to me, 
and there is more elsewhere. Also, 
there is evidence of magnificent tem- 
per. It is said that at West Point the 
young cadet threatened to throw a 
would-be hazer out of the window; but 
this may have been not temper, but 
policy. Later instances are indisput- 
able. When an officer of his staff 



228 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



misappropriated a horse, the general 
overwhelmed him with a torrent of re- 
proach, drew his sword, ripped off the 
officer's shoulder-straps, and forced him 
to dismount and lead the horse a long 
distance to its owner. On another oc- 
casion a teamster was beating his mules 
over the head when the commander 
fell upon him with such a tumult of 
invective that the fellow fled to the 
woods and disappeared. 

But the most interesting evidence as 
to Thomas's temper is his own confes- 
sion in the admirable letter he wrote 
declining to be considered a candidate 
for the presidency. He gives a list of 
his disqualifications and places prom- 
inently among them, 'I have not the 
necessary control over my temper'; 
adding this really delightful piece of 
self-analysis : ' My habits of life, estab- 
lished by a military training of over 
twenty-five years, are such as to make 
it repugnant to my self-respect to have 
to induce people to do their duty by 
persuasive measures. If there is any- 
thing that enrages me more than an- 
other, it is to see an obstinate and 
self-willed man opposing what is right, 
morally and legally, simply because un- 
der the law he cannot be compelled to 
do what is right.' 

Perhaps he would not have made a 
good president of the United States, 
since that individual must be subject- 
ed to visions of the above nature at 
rather frequent intervals. 

Thomas was human in other aspects, 
also. He took a real human joy in 
fighting and victory. When the arrival 
of A. J. Smith assured success at Nash- 
ville, Thomas took Smith in his arms 
and hugged him. How pretty is the 
story Shanks tells of the general's 
eagerness in reporting Chickamauga to 
Rosecrans. 'Whenever I touched their 
flanks, they broke, general, they broke.' 
Then, catching Shanks's eye fixed upon 
him, 'as if ashamed of his enthusiasm, 



the blood mounted to his cheeks and 
he blushed like a woman.' Sherman 
says that when Atlanta was taken, 
'The -news seemed to Thomas almost 
too good to be true. He snapped his 
fingers, and almost danced.' The im- 
age of Thomas dancing for joy is of a 
peculiar gayety. Yet I have seen just 
such men do just such things. 

As to the sense of humor, some main- 
tain that Thomas had it not. Every- 
body has it, if you can find it. Accord- 
ing to Horace Porter, the general 
took great delight in the jokes of a 
vaudeville entertainment with which 
the officers whiled away camp tedious- 
ness. One story told by Keyes, though 
homely, is so accordant with Thomas's 
methodical and mathematical temper- 
ament that I cannot omit it. Keyes was 
looking for a certain officer who was a 
great chewer and spitter, and as he 
sat at his desk, spat in winter into the 
fireplace, in summer out of the window. 
'Now,' said Thomas, 'you may come 
in the window and follow up the line 
of tobacco juice on the floor, or you 
may descend the chimney and trace 
from that, and at the intersection of 
the two lines you will discover B.' 
Something in the anecdote seems to 
show something in the man. 

If there is doubt about Thomas's 
humor, there is none whatever about 
his sensibility. It was, indeed, limited 
in character. He was a soldier and little 
else, and I find no trace in him of re- 
sponsiveness to literature or art or even 
the beauty of nature. Though an in- 
dustrious reader, his reading was con- 
fined to his profession and related sub- 
jects. But as a man and a soldier his 
feelings were of the keenest. The most 
striking testimony to this is the con- 
temporary observation of Quartermas- 
ter Donaldson, writing to his superior 
Meigs, of a conversation held with the 
general in January, 1 865 . 'He feels very 
sore at the rumored intention to relieve 



GEORGE H. THOMAS 



229 



him, and the major-generalcy does 
not cicatrize the wound. You know 
Thomas is morbidly sensitive, and it 
cuts him to the heart to think that it 
was contemplated to remove him. He 
does not blame the Secretary, for he 
said Mr. Stanton was a fair and just 
man.' 

The last sentence is as nobly char- 
acteristic as the preceding one. But 
the sensitiveness was there, and shows 
repeatedly under the stoical calm, as 
in the remark just before Nashville: 
'Wilson, they treat me at Washing- 
ton and at Grant's headquarters as 
though I were a boy'; and in the retort 
to Stanton, when they met after the 
war was over and the secretary de- 
clared that he had always trusted the 
general: 'Mr. Stanton, I am sorry to 
hear you make this statement. I have 
not been treated as if you had confi- 
dence in me.' Also, the general show- 
ed a very human susceptibility in his 
resentment of the criticism of Scho- 
field. 

And as Thomas was sensitive, so he 
was kindly and tender, though his 
grave manner sometimes bred the con- 
trary opinion. Sherman even declares 
that he was too kind for discipline, and 
that at his headquarters everybody 
was allowed to do as he liked. This is 
Sherman's exaggeration, but Thomas 
was kind to officers and men : kind, con- 
siderate, approachable. The considera- 
tion showed in things slight, but emi- 
nently significant. For instance, it is 
said that on the march, if the general 
was riding hastily to the front, he 
would take his staff through swamps 
and thickets and leave the highway to 
the trudging soldiers. So, after the war, 
he was equally thoughtful of his old 
followers and of the enemy. And the 
proof of this is not only that his follow- 
ers adored 'Old Pap,' but that in spite 
of excellent grounds for animosity 
Southerners usually speak of him with 



more admiration and respect than of 
almost any other Northern comman- 
der. 

Nor, in speaking of Thomas's kind- 
ness, should we omit one most impor- 
tant feature of it, his tender regard for 
animals. Maltreatment of them roused 
him to fierce indignation, and horses, 
mules, dogs, cats, and even fowls, look- 
ed upon him as their peculiar friend 
and protector. 

I wish I could say something about 
the general's more intimate personal 
relations. But he would have nothing 
published bearing upon them and it 
is right that his reticence should be re- 
spected, although I feel sure that the 
more closely we studied him, the more 
we should love him. Oddly enough, 
purely personal material does not often 
get into the Official Records, yet with 
Thomas, most secretive of men, we 
have one of the few documents that 
seem to speak directly from one heart 
to another. Among the formal corre- 
spondence bearing upon the battle of 
Nashville we find the following brief 
dispatch, — hitherto overlooked by 
the general's industrious biographers. 
'Mrs. F. L. Thomas, New York Hotel, 
New York: We have whipped the en- 
emy, taken many prisoners and consid- 
erable artillery.' These are bare and 
simple words. But when I think who 
wrote them, who read them, and all 
they meant, they bring tears to my 
eyes, at any rate. 

So now we understand that this high- 
souled gentleman, for all his dignity 
and all his serenity, was neither cold 
nor stolid, and we are better prepared 
to understand the startling significance 
of his brief remark to one who was very 
close to him: 'Colonel, I have taken a 
great deal of pains to educate myself 
not to feel.' 

Truly, a royal and heroic figure and 
one for all America to be proud of. Is 
it not indeed an immortal glory for 



230 



A TULIP GARDEN 



Virginia to have produced the noblest 
soldier of the Revolution and the no- 
blest that fought on each side in the 
Civil War? Some day I hope to see her 
erect a worthy monument to one of 
the greatest of her sons. But, as she 



grows every year richer, more prosper- 
ous, more fortunate, more loyal in the 
Union for which he helped to save 
her, she herself, whether she wills it or 
not, will more and more become his 
noblest monument. 



A TULIP GARDEN 



BY AMY LOWELL 



Guarded within the old red wall's embrace, 
Marshaled like soldiers in gay company, 
The tulips stand arrayed. Here infantry 

Wheels out into the sunlight. What bold grace 

Sets off their tunics, white with crimson lace! 
Here are platoons of gold-frocked cavalry 
With scarlet sabres tossing in the eye 

Of purple batteries, every gun in place. 

Forward they come, with flaunting colors spread, 

With torches burning, stepping out in time 

To some quick, unheard march. Our ears are dead, 

We cannot catch the tune. In pantomime 
Parades that army. With our utmost powers 
We hear the wind stream through a bed of flowers. 








The Pierce-Arrow Car has 
become a necessity to the man 
who owns one, because the 
perfection of its service leads 
him to depend more and 
more upon it. It is not a car 
of allowances and exceptions; 
it is a car that offers con- 
venience almost beyond the 
power of words to express. 



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